Sexuality and marriage in the psychoanalytic experience

Saying yes to one another

Marriage is my choice – marrying out of love is a bet on the future. If it is no longer the guarantee of the social and economic order, its importance manifests itself at the moment of the ceremony which propels the private history of the couple in a public space. People get married to have their wedding day. They make themselves beautiful on D-day. In the name of the ‘for all’, new conjugal desires appear as tradition declines, taking the legislator by surprise. The renewed forms of marriage are making the headlines: three-person marriage, with oneself, with a woman who becomes a man or the other way round, and even with the Eiffel Tower! There is an inventiveness of marriage for everyone.

Celibacy or marriage

Better alone than in bad company – Celibacy has been secularized and is conjugated in the plural, in sync with contemporary individualism. Meetings facilitated by social networks replace commitment. For all that, celibacy is also a position of expectation, an unconscious defense, the traumatic effect of a story of which one is the product, an anxiety in the face of too great a dependence. Celibacy makes it all the more enigmatic to consent to the other in marriage.

A love that lasts

I will always love him – Psychoanalysis shows that to get married, you must first give up enjoying your own body alone. It reveals the mainsprings of the unconscious choice of the man or woman one wishes to marry. An analysis makes it possible to flush out the fantasy that hides under the veils of love at first sight, cautious reasoning or incessant doubt. The spouse is asked for love, children, money or sex. Desire and demand do not overlap. The enduring of marriage over time raises questions.

Knotting and sexuality

I no longer have any desire – the analytical experience reveals the mainsprings of the balance found in couple life where desire is felt, in love as in sexuality, and its vagaries: disappearance of desire, hateloving (hainamoration), doubling up of love life. Lacan said that boys were married with their pee-pee, a marriage that could break up to marry an addictive substance, an object which would confine them to their solitude. So what is a woman married to? It is a knotting between sex, language and flesh.

Ravage and joy of marriage

I can’t stand her anymore! – If a marriage holds, it means that a drive finds its satisfaction in it. Psychoanalysis makes it possible to read the marital entanglement, the mystery of the encounter, the unconditional of demand, the particular attraction of a body or a way of speaking, the paradoxical pleasure of suffering at the hand of one another, until death do us part.

They argue all the time – psychoanalysts frequently receive the children of discord. Children respond to their parents’ unconscious marriage with their symptoms.
I feel good with you – But there are no marital standards and happy marriages exist too. The basis of such unions is also a question.

And the psychoanalyst

She does not listen to me, he does not speak to me – the bonds of marriage are made of words and body events. When the marital experience confronts the subject with the solitude of his fantasy, he turns to a psychoanalyst to make it last or undo it. There are no rules or expertise on this matter. The psychoanalyst is not a matchmaker, nor a director of conscience; not a sexologist, nor a marriage counselor. He knows that for everyone, marriage remains an open question.


Laura Sokolowsky, Éric Zuliani, directors of the Conference

Traduction: Luxi Phang

“Under the cultural conditions of today, marriage has long ceased to be a panacea for the nervous troubles of women”. – Sigmund Freud

“Nothing allows us to abstract these definitions of man and woman from the complete speaking experience, even in the institutions where they express themselves, namely marriage.” – Jacques Lacan

“Who still believes that marriage has a natural foundation? Since it is a cultural fact, we indulge in invention. We tinker on all sides with other constructions. It’ll be better… or worse.” – Jacques-Alain Miller

Thematic axes

To consent, wait, refuse
SK Beau
Being married to the other sex
Staying single
When it holds: for life and death
Marital satisfaction and its paradoxes
Sexual discontent in conjugal life
Children of break-ups
Marriage partner: phallus, symptom, object a, psychoanalyst